Maggie was hiding behind the counter and as soon as Sophia left, she rushed to Scarlett.
“What happened? What did she come and say? How did she find out?”
“Dear… what did she say to you?
“She wants me to let go of the painting. Abandon Tristan.” Scarlett closed her eyes. “I can’t do that. I will give it to my parents. Let them keep it.” But even then she knew deep in her heart that it was not what will free Tristan.
“Oh. It’s Tristan. I have often wondered about him and his sudden disappearance.”
“He remembers your café…”
Maggie smiled. “You know once he came here and…”
“Maggie… what should I do? Where I can entrust his painting? It should be somewhere he will be safe and he can find his freedom. Tell me what was so wrong with him and Sophia is so vehemently trying to correct?”
“My dear, Tristan was… selfish and self centered. He was consumed by himself, his success and his needs and wants. He was blind to the lives of others. More than once I have seen Michael try to stop him and make take a look at what is going on. But Tristan never listened. He only talked, or rather ordered, demanded and commanded. There was not a polite bone in his body. He was ruthless, rude, add on any similar adjective, you’ll get Tristan. He hurt everyone and people hated him.”
“Does that mean I have to take him somewhere where he understands the value of life… emotions… I don’t know… kindness?? Is that the key to his freedom?”
“That makes absolute sense. What do you think? Should we donate the painting to an orphanage? Or hospital?”
“But Sophia says I cannot go in search of him. How can I not? How can I abandon him? He has been too lonely for too long. I want to be with him, Maggie… I can’t let him go.”
“Scarlett, you have to do this even if this will hurt. Think, isn’t it an even bigger curse to hear him talk about how he wants to be alive and do everything he is capable of? You may not be the one to set him free from the frame. But from what you told me, you set him free a long time ago.”
“Maggie… I just have a bad feeling about all this.”
“My dear… Be brave and trust your heart. Listen to what your heart whispers. It always leads to the right place, you just don’t know that yet.”
Scarlett literally clung to those words while driving back to her house. Her life was suddenly all chaos and hellfire. She couldn’t feel the happiness of her parent’s arrival. She was running in a dark tunnel and it just got darker and darker. There was Mathew’s hint that her company was edging towards a disaster. She was treading dangerous water here and she was afraid she was going to drown.
Scarlett hesitated for a moment before opening the door of her bedroom. Tristan was there on the other side waiting for her. She still heard him talking. It was something about fishing. Men and fishing. She couldn’t stop a smiling at his words.
She opened the door and walked into the room.
“And we spent the whole day and caught nothing. You are back! How are you? That was some hangover you had in the morning…”
Tristan was happy that she was back. He seemed like an eager puppy wagging its tail and ready to lick her to death in happiness.
“You like fishing? Ever been to? I’ll take you once. My father also likes fishing. Unlike me, he actually catches fish. I am never lucky when it comes to fishi… What happened why are you looking like that?
Scarlett was staring at the painting. Hearing his question, she turned and walked away into the bathroom. She couldn’t tell him anything. Though Sophia had not really said that she couldn’t say anything, Scarlett realized that she wanted him to remember this time with her and come to her. If all that Maggie said was true and if all that Tristan believed about how he has changed from the frame is true, he has to remember and come to her.
Scarlett was not actually letting him free. She was tying him to herself by letting the painting go. The connection they shared, the bond that was beyond anyone’s comprehension and any explanation of science had to live through this period of hardship. She did not want him to spend a lifetime behind the frame lamenting and recounting stories. She wanted to see him conquer the world, like he always did. Or better than he did, now that he has changed into a better human being.
“You know, you should never drink wine like that. It is not a drink to be guzzled down. I take it that your tolerance to alcohol is quite low. Who else gets so tipsy on wine? Ever gone wine tasting? I will take you sometime to…”
Scarlett came back to the room still in the same clothes. She couldn’t handle another promise. In the few days she could hear him, he has already made a thousand promises. Not one more. It was too much for her. Soon, there won’t be any more careless conversations when she came home at night. There will not be stories of Paris, fishing or archery. There won’t be any more comments on her dressing or her choice of shoes. This was all too much. And she broke down.
“Oh my god… What happened? Why are you crying Scarlett…?What… Why… Damn this frame… Say something Scarlett…”
All she could do was bawl like babysitting on the floor. It was not funny. Nothing was funny anymore.
“Scarlett…say something. You are killing me… What happened… I can’t watch cry and not do anything… please say something… Say my name Scarlett… Atleast my name…”
She would soon be left with nothing but his name and a thousand memories attached to it.
“Oh Tristan…What am I going to do?”
The next three days went in a blur. There was a lot of crying, even more cursing from Tristan and many more promises which made Scarlett cry more. Her mom called her atleast twenty times a day and asked her what happened. She was worried that Scarlett had a change of mind and did not want to come and see them or receive them at the airport. Scarlett did not have the energy to explain to her that it was something else altogether. She just said there was trouble at office.
At office she was a walking disaster. She watched everyone with suspicion. She would not talk to anyone nor could she work properly.
The only time she could put two and two together was when she walked into the Magic Brew and let it all out in front of Maggie. She was her mother’s age but they were also good friends. If it hadn’t been for Maggie, Scarlett would have died of starvation. She ate only when she was at the Brew.
Maggie urged her to make a decision on what to do with Tristan and not delay it too long. Scarlett told her that every time she thought of taking the painting off the hook, her hands trembled. Tristan was beyond confused. He was panicking and sick with worry. For three days he had asked her only questions. Scarlett had stopped talking to him. She wanted some kind of distance with him. But Tristan’s concern was making it extremely difficult. It only made her want him more than ever.
“My dear, Scarlett, your parents arriving tomorrow. You missed an important meeting at your office. You are not being sensible. Tristan’s future is hanging, literally and figuratively. You can’t go about like this. This is not who you are. Are you? Is this who you want to be? I believe not. Wake up. Get up and do something. Make a decision. It is ten times better than all this uncertainty.”
Scarlett closed her eyes and sighed. Maggie was right. This was not who she was. She was a wall and now she was a ruined wall.
With a sigh, Scarlett replied after a long minute, “Maggie… I’ll take a while to be back in here. I have things to do. And did I tell you?”
“What? You decided what you are doing with the painting?” Maggie asked eagerly.
“Hahaha… No Maggie. I haven’t decided about that yet. But I can tell you one thing. That you are an absolute angel.”
Scarlett kissed Maggie on her cheek and called out, “Keep an eye out for me, will ya? I’ll be back.”
While driving back to her home, Scarlett decided three things. One, she could not hang Tristan in there forever. Two, if she could not be the Sherlock Holmes at Cyberatics, she would hire one. Three, she owed her parents a smiling face. It was time to put the fallen bricks back in place and fortify her forts; again! The gates would now open only to Tristan. And if he did not come… then it would be a sad fairy tale where the Prince never came in search of his Princess.